If you’ve read my blog for more than a micro-second, you’ll realize there are two things I consistently love to write about: faith and running. Hopefully, that’s cool with you– which I’m guessing it is, sense you’re reading this post right now. In that case, today’s going to be a blast because we’re talking about both. Running and faith, together. Combined.
Are you ready?!
It helps if we start with young, Hannah, a middle school runner who saw no connection between running and God. Aside from using Bible verses as quick ego-boosts, I thought my Christian life and athletic endeavors were better left separate.
See, God had nothing to do with my running because running was my god. And when you’re having an affair of the heart, there’s nothing more awkward and uncomfortable than introducing your two lovers. So, I put God in a box: I praised Him when I succeeded and I blamed Him when I didn’t.
“When you give yourself to a master who is neither forgiving nor compassionate, life is quite miserable.”
Looking back, I have nothing but gratitude for what happened next: Injury, and lots of it. A separated growth plate, stress fractures, and strained muscles. And of course there was the eating disorder, that simultaneously fulfilled my athletic goals and barred me from pursuing them. Ultimately, those trials– lasting almost four years– gave me a better knowledge of who I am, who God is, and what happens when I confuse the two.
It turns out: When you give yourself to a master who is neither forgiving nor compassionate, life is quite miserable. That was how I felt when I found my identity in running.
Sophomore year of college was the darkest period for me, largely because the doctors said I wasn’t allowed to run. I would sneak out anyways, my legs propelled by fear. I was afraid of being caught, afraid that my talent was gone, afraid of my failure. On one of those forbidden runs, I found myself at the edge of a river and my body heaved to a stop. It was a dead end and the water rushed violently at my feet. It echoed the anxious tremors of my own heart, dredging up tears from the bottom of my soul. Spiritually and literally: I stopped running.
Since that come-to-Jesus moment at the river, the Lord has been faithful to not only reveal Himself as the only One worthy of praise. He has also restored the gift of running in my life. The past year, I have rediscovered the joy of running with the Lord, whether it’s in a hard race or an easy recovery run.
A lot of people say, “God cares about ____ because He cares about you.” Fill in the blank: Running, golf, photography, ecology. Basically, “God cares about your passions because He cares about you.”
I don’t doubt that for a minute, but I think we sell ourselves (and God) short when we leave it at that. See, God doesn’t just love running because I decided to like it. He created the art of running; it was birthed out of His love and creativity. He made us with long limbs and deep lungs. He created us relish the thrill of flinging our legs in forward motion. So, think about this: When you engage in the hobbies that light your heart up, you’re creating an explosive combination:
GOD’S CHILD + GOD’S CREATIVE OUTLET + GOD HIMSELF
When you start to understand that, it’s comical to think of pursuing any athletic goal without the Lord at the forefront of your mind. It doesn’t even make sense! And when He is your focus, your joy is greater and your satisfaction.
I plan to do a blog post series this spring to continue the dialogue on this topic, because I don’t think we can just end it here. So stay tuned, friends! If you have ideas or questions: Send them my way and I’ll be glad to incorporate them in my next post.